Tuesday, March 3, 2009


The story about gossip that I used in my sermon on Sunday came from the movie Doubt. When I did some research on the story I discovered that John Patrick Shanley, the writer/director of the movie heard the story preached in a sermon when he was a boy attending St. Anthony's in the  Bronx. He said:  “Gossip and cutting the pillow was a sermon I had heard. The Cure of Ars (St. John Vianney) used that sermon in the Middle Ages. And before that it’s Jewish in origin.  The story told in the sermon has a priest reproaching a woman for gossiping by telling her to cut open a pillow on the roof of her apartment building and shake out the feathers. When the woman tells the priest she’s done so, he then tells her to pick up each feather — a near-impossibility, like stopping the spread of gossip once started. “To me as a kid, gossip meant nothing,” Shanley added. “It was (imagining) the pillow and the feathers and all that.”

I thought about cutting a pillow during my sermon to add a visual effect, but thought I better try it at home first. Robert and Maria had a great time throwing feathers around the yard. I decided not to use the feathers in church though. They got everywhere, in everything and spread all across the neighborhood. Since I am of the belief that if I make a mess then I clean it up and I didn't want to clean up a million down feathers from the red carpet. 

I chose the New Testament reading, instead of the one from the Old Testament, from the Daily Office. I like the phrase "today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." The poem comes from Linda Hogan (which I get from Panhala.net) 

So, today if you hear the voice of God, harden not your hearts. 

Hebrews 3:1-11 (NRSV)
Therefore, brothers and sisters, holy partners in a heavenly calling, consider that Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses also “was faithful in all God’s house.” Yet Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that would be spoken later. Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, as on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors put me to the test, though they had seen my works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known my ways.’ As in my anger I swore, ‘They will not enter my rest.’”

The Radiant
In night,
at the dark limits of earth
where land ends and water begins,
at the elemental border
where you can go no further
without one entering the other,
the green light goes on.
It's not the man who fishes here,
not the light of human making
because we are the ones who measure light
and because light was created before us
from blood of flesh and sea
like this animal light of the manta ray
traveling the latitudes of night
and longitudes of darkness
knowing the blue unfathomable shifts
and dark ranges of the world beneath water.
It travels a rich sea away from us,
its light falling on plankton,
bringing food and fish toward it,
as if it is moonlight
opening across water,
it passes over the fished-out places
beyond the reef where coral is dying,
out past the point where the British captain was killed
by those who first thought he was a shining god.
It moves steadily out into darkness
to where the colder darkness begins to well up
from the sea depths that have no bottom,
the place where I have feared the pale face of a shark
with its deadly touch
against my naked legs.
The ray travels over the many
other lives that have light
and below them is the blindness
of fish who need no sight,
and out toward the place where sun left the sky,
to where the larger creatures live,
where fishermen once found their boat cast in shadow
and looking up, saw what kind of cloud it was,
the manta ray risen out of water, a leap
so large it darkened the sky.
The men returned haunted by
everything that was larger than they were,
more beautiful and bearing its own light.
Tonight on this dark shore,
watching the animal light go over the horizon,
I long to be in water heading for open sea,
for no other power,
no other light.
~ Linda Hogan ~
(Rounding the Human Corners)

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